Susan Roberti is used to seeing deer wandering on the side of busy Route 88 in Bethel Park.
What she never expected to see there, however, was a young child running and crying, "I want my mama."
"She was running so fast, and her little backpack was going up and down, and so I put on my turn signal and pulled over and rolled down the window and asked, 'Sweetheart, is something wrong? Can I help you?' " Ms. Roberti, of Bethel Park, said of what happened the afternoon of Dec. 3.
Because of her actions that day, Ms. Roberti, 65, a crossing guard with the Bethel Park School District, is being lauded as a heroine by the district.
The girl, about age 5, stopped and looked at her.
"I promise, I'm not going to hurt you," Ms. Roberti recalled saying so that she wouldn't scare the child into fleeing.
When she asked the girl what happened, the child said she got off at the wrong bus stop.
Ms. Roberti next asked if it would be OK if she got out of the car as long as she did not come near her. She stood a short distance away, assuring the girl that no one was angry or upset with her because everyone makes mistakes.
When Ms. Roberti asked her if the girl could set her backpack on the ground and step aside, she obliged, allowing Ms. Roberti to look inside for her family's phone number.
When a man approached them offering to help, Ms. Roberti asked him to call the phone number she found. He reached an answering machine and then called borough police.
The officer who arrived asked the child where she lived, and she knew the name of her street in Bethel Park. When he asked if he could take her home, she looked at Ms. Roberti, who told her he was a nice man.
"As he pulled away, my heart was so broken. She stuck out like a birthday cake with legs running down that road. How could people drive by and ignore her?" Ms. Roberti asked.
The day after the incident, Ms. Roberti received a bouquet of flowers from the girl's parents. The police officer had given them her name and address.
A few days later, Nancy Aloi Rose, superintendent of Bethel Park schools, called Ms. Roberti and then wrote her a letter.
" ... You had the wisdom and compassion to take the time to check out the situation. Your action may well have prevented a tragedy," the letter stated.
"We are very grateful for your action and for your big heart.
You are a hero to us."
In addition to being a crossing guard, Ms. Roberti is producer and co-host of "Let's Talk Tailwaggers," a show about animals that airs on Bethel Park public access television. Suzi Smith, who co-hosts the Channel 7 show with Ms. Roberti, said she would not expect anything less from her friend.
"She's like an angel. She helps animals all the time, and to see all those people pass by, I'm not surprised that she stopped because of how caring she is," Ms. Smith, of Washington, Pa., said.
Ms. Roberti said she remains dismayed that other motorists didn't stop to help the child.
"I have lived all my life in Bethel Park, and it hurt my feelings that no one stopped as something was clearly wrong," she said. "You just have to stop and take care of the little ones. That's why we are put on this earth: to take care of each other."
Margie Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.